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Rising Above the Rhetoric

May 28, 2024 Gov. Whitmer

Gretchen Whitmer | Governor, State of Michigan

Michigan Can Bridge Divides Toward a More Prosperous Future

Since its inception, the Mackinac Policy Conference has been a place where people from all sides come together to focus on the biggest challenges we face. Every year, I have the honor of addressing the conference. In my 2021 keynote, I talked about how we must listen and stay focused on solving pragmatic problems to close our political divide. In 2022, I laid out a vision for Michigan in 2100, and last year, I spoke about how we need a collaborative strategy to sustainably grow Michigan’s population and economy. At the center of these keynotes has been my core belief in building bridges.

While leaders understand the stakes of political division, there are still forces working hard to tear us apart. As we approach the 2024 election, we have a unique opportunity to model how a state full of thoughtful people with different perspectives and shared goals can rise above the rhetoric, work through challenging problems, disagree without being disagreeable, and make real progress.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaking at the 2022 Mackinac Policy ConferenceTake one example: economic development. In December 2021, I brought Republicans and Democrats together to establish powerful economic development tools that have helped us win transformational projects driving billions of dollars of investment and creating thousands of jobs. Combined with historic investments by the Biden Administration boosting advanced manufacturing and bringing supply chains home, these policies are helping Michiganders across our state get to work building the future of cars, chips, and clean energy. We went from two battery factories across the entire country when I took office to thirty today — with six built or in the works in Michigan.

We can build on this progress by continuing to work together. In my state of the state address, I proposed four new targeted economic development tools to support innovation and make us more competitive. These four tools — an R&D tax credit, a payroll tax incentive called HIRE Michigan, simplified Renaissance Zones, and a new Innovation Fund supporting startups —will help more people and businesses “make it” in Michigan.

We collaborated on many other commonsense issues. Together, we made record, bipartisan investments in education and workforce development. We closed the funding gap between schools and delivered free breakfast and lunch for students. We are paying our teachers more and lowering the cost of college through Michigan Reconnect and the Michigan Achievement Scholarship. We are expanding childcare and PreK. This year, we can build on our bipartisan talent and education record with the Michigan Guarantee, which would meet our PreK goals and offer free community college for every Michigan high school graduate.

Michiganders bridge divides. From the Mighty Mac that literally connects our two peninsulas to invisible bonds across party lines and between industries, we are a model to the rest of the nation on bipartisanship and collaboration. At this year’s conference, let’s continue tackling big, statewide challenges and driving toward our shared vision of a more prosperous Michigan. That’s our bridge to the future.